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Volume 1 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 30

Opinions of Counsel index

Veterans’ exemption (residence) - Real Property Tax Law, § 458:

Persons seeking exemption need not be residents of New York. The fact that a veteran may have a similar exemption in another state does not affect his eligibility provided he has used eligible funds for the purchase of real property within this state.

          Subdivision 1 of section 458 of the Real Property Tax Law provides an exemption on “ . . . real property purchased with the proceeds of a pension, bonus or insurance, or dividends or refunds on such insurance, or payments received as prisoner of war compensation from the United States Government, heretofore or hereafter received, hereinafter referred to as eligible funds, granted by the United States or by this state for military or naval services, and owned by the person who rendered such services, or by his wife or unremarried widow, or dependent father or mother, or by his minor children . . . ”

Thus, in order to be entitled to the veterans’ exemption, the real property must be purchased with eligible funds and must be owned by one of the persons specified therein. Mustering-out pay and dividends on a National Service Life Insurance policy are eligible funds within the meaning of the above statute.

The statute does not require that applicants for the veterans’ exemption reside in New York State. Therefore, a person residing in another state would qualify for the veterans’ exemption, if he is one of the persons specified in the statute and has used eligible funds in purchasing real property in this state.

As a general rule of construction, the courts have stated that exemption statutes must be strictly construed and scrutinized against the person seeking exemption. The courts have stated that the statutory requirements for exemption must be clearly met and if there is a reasonable doubt, the doubt should be resolved in favor of taxation.

The mere fact that a person received eligible funds does not entitle him to exemption. The statute requires that an application be filed showing the facts on which exemption is claimed, listing the eligible funds which were used in the purchase of real property. The statute further provides that if the assessors are satisfied that the applicant is entitled to exemption, they shall make appropriate entries on the assessment roll. All of these provisions indicate that the burden of establishing the clear entitlement to exemption rests upon the applicant, and he is required to substantiate the facts on which exemption is claimed.

The veterans’ exemption is limited to $5,000 of eligible funds of each veteran which were used in the purchase of real property in New York State. Therefore, the fact that the veteran may or may not have any exemption in another state would not affect the entitlement to exemption in the State of New York.

June 8, 1964